Shirley Hughes is a Grande Dame of British children's literature, her 1977 picture book, Dogger, which she wrote and illustrated won the Kate Greenaway Award (the British Caldecott) that year and, in 2007 it won the public vote of best Greenaway every. Hughes has teamed up with her daughter, Clara Vuillamy, a fantastic picture book illustrator and author in her own right, to create a chapter book series that is utterly charming and out of the ordinary, in story, illustration and design.
The first book in the series, Digby O'Day: In the Fast Lane, introduces us to the main characters and the world they live in. In fact, the first two pages of this heavily and wonderfully illustrated book look like the feature pages of a magazine where an interesting person is being interviewed. We find out Digby's favorite color, favorite biscuit (cookie), most prized possession and most extravagant purchase, which was "fifty-four bow ties! They were on sale, though." We also learn that his ideal evening is supper on a tray in front of the television with his best buddy Percy, watching a cooking show. Next, we are treated to a photo-album like page that introduces the "rest of the gang" and a two page map showing the villages of Dodsworth and Didsworth and the surrounding environs.
At this point, Hughes could have written a story in which Digby and Percy do just about anything and Vuillamy could have illustrated them doing this kind of anything and I would be completely enthralled. However, together they have created a character and story that will appeal to boys and girls and keep new readers tracking and turning pages.
The car-loving Digby has only one thorn in his side, his neighbor Lou Ella, who buys a new pink car every year. Digby and Percy toodle around in his old red sportster that breaks down with precise regularity. Despite this, Digby enters the All Day Race from Didsworth to Dodsworth, "By any route you choose." Breakdowns, cliffhangers and some not-very-nice behavior on the part of Lou Ella ensue, but the day ends happily. However, Digby O'Day: In the Fast Lane doesn't end there! Bonus pages share fun games to play in the car, ideas for crazy cars to draw, a "Digby O'Day Quiz," pages from Digby's family photo album, a very sweet introduction to the author and illustrator and the first chapter of the second book in the series, Digby O'Day and the Great Diamond Robbery!
As you may have noticed, the title of the above book is "Dixie O'Day," not Digby. Apparenetly the publisher decided to change the names of the characters to suit the country of publication. In the photo above, Clara Vuillamy shares (on her adorable blog, Sunny Side Up,)the Dutch, French and Turkish editions of the books in which Dixie becomes "Leon Klaxon" (French) and Percy becomes "Dinky,"(Dutch).
And, finally, besides being a great artist, Clara is crafty as well. Enjoy these snaps of Digby & Percy enjoying a picnic on the beach in Brightsea, the setting of the next book!
And be sure to check out Clara's other adorable books featuring Martha & the Bunny Brothers!
And definitely don't miss her tutorial on how to make felt bunnies!